An 8-year-old Hindu child from the Bhong neighborhood in the Pakistani city Rahim Yar Khan has been charged with blasphemy for allegedly urinating on a seminary carpet. The boy is believed to be the youngest person to have received blasphemy charges in Pakistan.
Cleric Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim from the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran madrassah registered a police complaint against the child under section 295-A of the Pakistani Penal Code. Section 295-A penalizes “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class,” with a prison term which can extend for 10 years.
According to Ibrahim’s police complaint, the boy entered the seminary’s library through a broken window and urinated on the carpet. It goes on to say that the accused also “spread filth on a library cupboard.” The complainant claimed he tried to apprehend the boy but he escaped.
Ibrahim’s version of events has been disputed. According to sources from the local Hindu community, the child had accidentally entered the madrassah and lost control of his physical faculties out of fear of the cleric who scolded him for wandering into the place.
“How can you make a case against an 8-year-old child? What sense could such a young child have?” human rights activist Kapil Dev told VICE World News, “An 8-year-old is not even aware of his own religion at that age.”
“He [the boy] is not even aware of such blasphemy issues, and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week,” the boy’s father told The Guardian.
In 2012, Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl with a learning disability, was charged with blasphemy by a Muslim cleric for allegedly burning the pages of the Quran. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws – remnants of the British colonial empire and military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization policies – range from a fine to the death sentence.
Blasphemy allegations can often incite mob violence against the accused. Since the 1980s, nearly 80 people have been killed from blasphemy-related attacks. According to human rights and legal experts, local blasphemy laws are regularly misused in personal vendettas such as disputes involving family, land and money.
Shortly after the child received bail, a mob of 150 people armed with ammunition and sticks attacked the Ganesh Hindu temple close to the seminary. The rioters damaged sacred statues and burned down the temple door. Viral videos on social media show the crowd breaking windows and destroying light fixtures with clubs.
Around 20 people have been arrested for the attack. The child and his father are currently under protective custody due to threats to their safety. Nearly 80 Hindu families in the area have abandoned their houses out of fear.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack on the temple in a tweet.
The country’s national assembly passed a resolution on August 6 to condemn the violence. Some lawmakers called the incident a “conspiracy” against Pakistan.
“Had this incident happened elsewhere in the world, like in New Zealand or in Canada, their prime ministers would have arrived the very next day to meet the affected victim community,” said Dev. “Unfortunately no such thing has happened here. Had the prime minister or the chief minister visited the community, it would have really restored their faith and trust in the state of Pakistan.”
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